Niagara Falls

One of North America's Most Unique Places to Play!

Niagara Falls, second-largest waterfall in the world, is one of the most unique tourist destinations in North America. Mostly this is because it’s simply a stunning natural occurrence – far and away the most striking waterfall (or more accurately, cluster of waterfalls) on the continent. But the area is also unique because it straddles the Canada-United States border, more specifically between Ontario and New York.

As a quick note on this fact – that Niagara Falls straddles a border – you should come to the area prepared to have to cross back and forth for certain attractions, some of which I’ll discuss below. This guide can help you with the documentation (basically it’s a good idea to have your passport or another valid I.D. handy), and there are specific resources you can check for wait times. Generally speaking however, border crossing is not a major issue at Niagara Falls. Now – on to the visit details!

Niagara Falls. Licensed Image.

Niagara Falls. Licensed Image.

Before I ever got the chance to visit, I was under the impression that Niagara Falls was essentially a sightseeing opportunity. Don’t get me wrong – I still wanted to see the falls in person. But movies and postcards had always made it seem as if seeing was about all there was to it. I’d go, snap a few pictures, take a ride on the famous boat that Jim Carrey got drenched on in Bruce Almighty, and be on my way. But as I discovered along the way, there’s a little bit more to a proper Niagara Falls visit than that (even if photo ops and the Maid of the Mist boat ride are among the highlights!).

First and foremost you’ll have to choose a place to stay if you’re not just passing through on a day trip. I liked Sheraton On The Falls, perhaps the main hotel on the Ontario side, just across the Rainbow Bridge (yes, that’s really what it’s called) from the main access points. The hotel overlooks the river with sensational views of the Falls, and rooms are reasonably priced for a luxury venue at an international destination. At least one review credits this hotel with providing the Falls’ best views, and I certainly wouldn’t argue.

The Maid of the Mist should probably be at the top of your activities list, even if it’s the most “touristy” attraction around the Falls. In fact, tourists have been enjoying this boat ride for 175+ years, as its first steam-powered predecessor opened in 1846! It’s the only chance to get up close from the water, and while you will get splashed, you’ll have fun doing it. There’s something about approaching the Falls from the water that makes them more impressive with each passing minute, and I found that to be one of the more impactful aspects of the entire vacation experience.

View of Niagara Falls from the Maid of the Mist tour. Photo by Linda Aksomitis.

View of Niagara Falls from the Maid of the Mist tour. Photo by Linda Aksomitis.

The ride on the Maid of the Mist was enough for a day for me in terms of outdoor, Falls-related activity went. But as you’ll no doubt discover in researching the area, there are some indoor attractions as well.

I balanced day one’s boat ride with a hot shower and a walk to Casino Niagara (which is just down the road from the Sheraton, also on the Ontario side). You don’t really have to be a casino gamer to appreciate the venue; as someone else wrote, it’s as much a tourist destination as it is a place to play. There are restaurants, gaming floors, comedy shows, and places to watch sports. I made do with a visit to Lucky’s Steakhouse (recommended) and did a little bit of light gaming.

On day two I made more of an effort to explore the area, and discovered what a lot of people who’ve visited will say, which is that there’s just more to do in the area than is commonly advertised.

I started the day off with the “White Water Walk,” which is basically a boardwalk over rapids (where apparently the water rushes by at an average of 22 miles per hour). It’s the closest you can come to walking on the Falls, and gives you great, up-close views from an entirely different vantage point than that which you enjoy from the Maid of the Mist. In a way, it might be the most intimate way to enjoy the actual natural wonder of the Falls.

American Falls at Niagara - Photo by Linda Aksomitis

American Falls at Niagara – Photo by Linda Aksomitis

I spent most of the rest of the time wandering around the area a little bit, which is non-specific but which I’d still recommend. Yes it’s a little bit touristy, but there are some charming spots to see and everyone is in a good mood. I did make it into the aquarium briefly because it got a little bit overcast and I’d heard good things. It’s on the U.S. side, but it’s still worth popping into if you have an hour or two to spare – particularly if you’re traveling with kids.

That more or less sums up a proper (in my mind) visit to Niagara Falls: some time for tourist attractions, some time for wandering, and a few minor indulgences in between. If there’s one thing I wish I’d done it’s probably the “journey behind the Falls,” another way of experiencing the Falls themselves up close. But I still feel like I viewed them from just about every angle, and kept myself entertained for a few memorable days.

More Places to Visit in New York

Best Halloween Event for Grown-Ups–Where else but in Sleepy Hollow, New York?

The legend of Sleepy Hollow, with the image of the headless horseman galloping through the night, has the ability to give us all a bit of a shiver at Halloween--even when we're grown ups. I'll admit, as will most folks I know, that things that go bump in the night can...

South Street Seaport – New York City

Whether you visit for the Statue of Liberty or to see the tall ships of long-past centuries, there’s lots to do on the Hudson River at the South Street Seaport in New York city.

10 Things You Must See & Do in New York State’s Hudson Valley

There are many attractions to visit and enjoy in New York's Hudson Valley. From history to geography to culture, you'll find the Hudson Valley a great destination rich in things to do see and do. Running north to south, the Hudson River flows down the eastern edge of...

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow — October Foliage Tour of Sunnyside — Washington Irving’s Home

Halloween today wouldn't be complete without The Legend of Sleepy Hollow--a story Washington Irving first published back in 1820. This year, when we were planning our fall foliage tour down the U.S. east coast, I was thrilled to be able to add in a stop to visit the...

Poughkeepsie’s Walkway Over the Hudson–Some of the Best 2013 Fall Foliage

The best way to see fall foliage is from a walkway above the oranges, reds, golds and greens--particularly if that walkway is Poughkeepsie's Walkway Over the Hudson River. Our 6000 mile return trip (from Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan) down the U.S. east coast in search of...

A Proper Visit to Niagara Falls

The second largest falls in the world, Niagara Falls (comprised of 3 falls), has 600,000 gallons of water roaring over the Horseshoe Falls every minute! Take the Maid of the Mist boat ride right under them for an unforgettable experience.

8 Facts You May Not Know About Ellis Island

Over three million people visit Ellis Island in New York City every year. Together, Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty stands, and Ellis Island make up the Statue of Liberty National Monument, which is managed by the National Park Service. And while New York...

Autumn Arrives in Niagara Falls–Niagara, New York–Photo Tour

I've never visited Niagara Falls before--and really, it wasn't even on my list of must-do stops when I started planning our fall foliage tour. Boy am I glad we added it to the itinerary! The sight of six million cubic feet of water rushing over the falls every minute...

Ride The World’s Most Thrilling Roller Coasters–Find Out Where They Are!

The screams of roller coaster riders fill the air at theme parks and summer fairs around the world. From the slow climbs to the g-force of those sudden drops, there's something about roller coasters that's hard to resist--maybe due to the adrenaline rush riders feel....
All original content on these pages is fingerprinted and certified by Digiprove
Tweet5
Share5
Pin313
+1
Flip
323 Shares